The best trading platforms in the UK

Fact checked
Fact Checked.
Updated on
May 15, 2022

In a nutshell

The best trading platforms comes down to range of investments, costs and platform experience. The best are Trading212, eToro, Freetrade and for those more traditional, Hargreaves Lansdown.

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Whether you’re already a trading wiz or a beginner just getting started and not quite sure what a stock is, we’ve got you covered.

And you’ve made a great choice – sensible investing and trading is a great way to grow your wealth over time, and using the right trading platform will supercharge your growth potential.

We’ve reviewed and compared the best trading platforms in the UK so you can find the right one for you.

Best trading platforms – UK, 2022

By trading we mean buying and selling shares and other investments regularly, and a platform is simply where you trade, operated by a stock broker (a company that buys and sells for you), online via a website or phone app.

If you’re after more of a hands-off approach to investing, check out the best investment apps, or learn more about expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISAs.

Oh, and if you’re unsure what something means, just scroll down and you’ll find everything explained.

So let’s get cracking! Here’s the best:

The best trading platforms

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Best overall

Trading212

Trading212 is a platform built for everyone in mind, it’s great for beginners to get started, and perfect for experienced traders looking for more advanced trading options, such as CFDs and crypto trading, with all the trading tools you’ll need, such as stop-loss and limit orders.

It’s also the cheapest platform out there, completely commission free, and the lowest fees on buying foreign stocks (currency conversion fee).

Platform experience: awesome
Device options:
website & phone app
Support:
24/7
Stocks & Shares ISA:
yes
Pension (SIPP):
no
Range of investments:
large
Stocks:
yes
ETFs:
yes
Fractional shares:
yes
Crypto:
yes
CFDs:
yes
Account fee:
free
Cost per trade:
free
Currency conversion fee:
0.15% (low)

Rating:

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Social trading

eToro

eToro is a hugely popular trading platform. Not just because of it’s awesome trading features and being completely commission free, but because you can join a community of traders from all over the world, to trade, chat and learn together.

It’s also got the largest range of assets to trade, including stocks, ETFs, crypto, CFDs, currencies and commodities (such as gold).

Platform experience: great
Device options:
website & phone app
Support:
24/7
Stocks & Shares ISA:
no
Pension (SIPP):
no
Range of investments:
Huge
Stocks:
yes
ETFs: yes
Fractional shares:
yes
Crypto:
yes
CFDs:
yes
Account fee:
free
Cost per trade:
free
Currency conversion fee:
0.50% on non-USD deposits

Rating:

eToro rated 5 stars
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Best trading app

Freetrade

Freetrade is taking the UK by storm and fast becoming one of the top places to buy and sell (trade) stocks and shares for free, thanks to it’s simple to use trading app, perfect for beginners and pros.

It’s free to use, but to get more advanced trading features, such as stop-loss and limit orders, you’ll have to upgrade to a ‘plus’ account (£9.99 per month), and you’ll get the full range of stocks too. It’s worth it. (You can offset the cost with 3% interest on your cash balance).

Platform experience: awesome
Device options:
phone app only
Support:
working hours
Stocks & Shares ISA:
yes
Pension (SIPP):
yes
Range of investments:
large
Stocks:
yes
ETFs:
yes
Fractional shares:
yes
Crypto:
no (coming soon)
CFDs:
no
Account fee:
£0 - £9.99
Cost per trade:
free
Currency conversion fee:
0.45% (average)

Rating

Freetrade rated 5 stars

There's currently a deal for our readers, get a free share worth up to £200 when you sign up with Nuts About Money.

Prefer a more traditional trading platform?

If you’re a bit more old school and feel like you want a long established company with a trustworthy history, or perhaps you want to make trades over the phone – and there’s nothing wrong with any of that! Then Hargreaves Lansdown tops the list.

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Best traditional

Hargreaves Lansdown

Hargreaves Lansdown is a more traditional trading platform, with a long established history.

The range of investment options is good, and you can still trade on their website and phone app, or make trades with a phone call, the choice is yours.

However, it’s very expensive compared to the newer commission free platforms, and so not a good choice for smaller trading accounts or frequent trading.

Platform experience: OK
Device options:
website, phone app, phone call
Support:
working hours
Stocks & Shares ISA:
yes
Pension (SIPP):
yes
Range of investments:
good
Stocks:
yes
ETFs:
yes
Fractional shares:
no
Crypto:
no
CFDs:
yes
Account fee:
0.45% per year on ISAs and funds
Cost per trade:
£5.95 - £11.95
Currency conversion fee:
0.25% - 1% (high)

Rating

Hargreaves Lansdown rated 2 stars
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Rating

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Rating

Our criteria for comparing the best trading platforms

To determine the best trading platforms, we focused on 5 main areas: 

  • Range of investments (assets)
  • Trading features (such as stop-loss and limit orders)
  • Costs
  • Customer reviews
  • The platform experience

There’s loads of trading platforms out there, but we’re only showing you the best – ones we’ve recommended to our own friends and family, so you can be confident that you’ll be using the best, whichever platform you decide to go with.

You could also try them all out to see which one you prefer – you can have as many as you like! (providing you only have 1 Stocks & Shares ISA.)

Frequently asked questions

What assets can you trade?

With a trading platform, you’ll often just be trading company shares listed on a stock exchange, but you can also buy ETFs, investment trusts, REITs, OEICs, OEICs, IPOs, SPACs and more. Wow, that's a lot of acronyms! These are all often called assets. Let’s go through what they mean:

  • Stocks and shares. These are small ownership stakes of individual companies, so when you buy them you own part of the company. They are traded (bought and sold) on stock exchanges, and as the company grows in value, so does the share price.
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These are a group or combination of individual shares, which could be a group of companies in a similar industry, such as electric vehicles, or a group of large successful companies such as the top 100 companies in the UK. You can simply buy a share of the ETF rather than all the individual shares. The ETF will trade on a stock exchange too.
ETFs - Exchange Traded Funds
  • Investment trusts. These are actual companies listed on a stock exchange, but instead of trading like a business, they only invest in other businesses – and their investments can be in any company, not just those listed on the stock market, so private companies and brand new businesses.
  • Real-estate investment trusts (REITs). These companies only invest in real estate, and often commercial real estate, such as offices, hotels, shops and warehouses. The property would generate income (often rent) and this income is often given back to investors regularly (called dividends).
  • Open-ended investment companies (OEICs). Are UK based investment funds (which just means a group of investments and investors). With OEICs new shares are issued when someone purchases them, rather than having a fixed number of shares. They are run by investment fund managers, and more suited to hands-off investors.
  • Initial public offering (IPOs). An IPO is when a private company begins trading on a stock exchange, and therefore becomes a public company, and open to the public to invest in (by buying shares in the company). These can be incredibly popular depending on the company undergoing the IPO.
  • Special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). These are newly formed companies listed on stock exchanges, that have the sole purpose of raising money from investors, to then go out and buy an existing business. They are often called ‘blank check’ shell companies. They have become quite popular as an alternative to a traditional IPO, as they’re often much easier for companies to ‘go public’ and list on a stock exchange.
  • Cryptocurrencies. The future of money, and possibly the future of everything. Without getting too confusing, these are tokens (or coins) that are issued by a company on a blockchain, such as a coin on the blockchain Ethereum, or a coin of the blockchain itself, which is used to keep the blockchain running. (if you're looking to trade crypto often, check out the best crypto exchanges).

What’s a fractional share?

Sometimes the share price of a company can be pretty high. If you take Netflix for instance, their share price has reached over $600. Traditionally, you would have had to buy a whole share with $600 in cash to be able to invest in Netflix.

For most investors, that’s a bit too much money to have in just one company, and a lot of investors, particularly beginners, won't have $600 in their account.

This is where fractional shares come in. You can buy a portion of a share, for instance, 25% of a share (or ¼ of a share). Or, you could buy as little as 1%, it all depends on how much money you want to invest in a company, rather than how much the share is worth.

Fractional shares

So in our example above, you could invest $100 in Netflix and receive ⅙ of a share. It makes investing with smaller budgets a lot easier, and gives you access to more companies with high share prices.

What’s a CFD and how are they different?

You might see some trading platforms use CFDs, such as eToro. And here’s where it gets a bit complicated. A CFD is a Contract For Difference, which means you are entering into an agreement (a contract) with someone, normally a broker, about the price direction of something, normally an asset, such as the price of a stock going up in the future.

When you close the trade, which means you don’t want to be in the trade anymore, perhaps the price has increased to your profit target, the contract ends, and you are paid out the difference between your purchase price and closing price. And vis-versa if you close the trade at a loss.

Sound confusing? Let’s get into that a bit more, you aren’t purchasing any assets, such as shares or ETFs. You are in fact, just interacting with a broker and agreeing a trade on the price direction of an asset (up or down).

On the surface, it’s very similar to buying stocks and shares, the difference is you don’t own the asset, you are just effectively placing a (hopefully sensible) bet on the price.

They’re great for trading strategies where you want to get in and out quickly and easily, such as short-term day-trading trading strategies. And if you’re trading regularly it can be cost-effective – particularly if your current broker is very expensive and charges per trade. 

They’re not meant for long-term investment strategies, when it’s often cheaper to buy and own the asset directly.

And as you can trade any price direction, you can bet on the price falling, which is often difficult to do without CFDs. This is called shorting, and is a good tool for advanced trading strategies as it allows you to hedge certain investments if you want to (which means adding some insurance if the trade goes against you). You’re then also able to trade when the market declines and prices fall.

You can trade CFDs on a huge range of assets, such as stocks, ETFs, indices, currencies and cryptocurrencies.

Another major benefit of CFDs is the ability to use leverage, which means borrowing money from a broker for your trades and magnifying your profits (and losses). For instance, you could use £1,000 as security (collateral), to make a trade with the broker for £10,000 worth of shares, using 10:1 leverage. 

If the price increases by 10%, you have now made £1,000 profit (10% of £10,000), so 100% profit on your £1,000, rather than £100, which is what you would have made if you traded with just your £1,000. Quite a big difference.

However, if the price of the asset went down 10%, your £1,000 would be wiped out. (10% of £10,000). For this reason, extreme caution should be used, and it’s only for advanced traders.

What’s a currency conversion fee?

When you trade stocks and ETFs from across the world on different stock exchanges, you’ll be trading in different currencies. It’s great to have access to all of these different assets, and the potential to find assets you like and make money is much higher.

However, the platform itself needs to convert your current currency, for instance British Pounds into the currency of the stock, for instance US Dollars, if you want to purchase a stock in the US, such as Google.

Unfortunately, this is not free, and this costs the platform itself money, so often they’ll charge this to you.

A fee is normally based on the exchange rate at that moment in time, called the spot exchange rate, plus an extra fee, anywhere from 0% to 1.5%+, depending on the platform.

What is Stamp Duty? And when do I pay it?

When you buy shares in a UK company, you’ll often need to pay Stamp Duty, which is a tax on purchasing assets. You’ll pay it when buying a home too.

When you purchase UK shares on a trading platform, you’ll technically pay Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT), which is 0.50% of the purchase price.

This is handled for you by the platform, all automatically, and they’ll let you know how much you’ll be paying.

There’s some good news though, you won’t pay Stamp Duty on ETFs, or on any IPOs, or any shares on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market (an exchange for smaller companies).

And there’s no Stamp Duty to pay on any shares outside of the UK, so European and US stocks are tax free!

What’s a self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA?

A self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, or sometimes called a self-select Stocks & Shares ISA, is a trading or investment account with all the benefits of an ISA – i.e. you can invest £20,000 per year, and everything you make from the total amount within it is completely tax free! Freetrade is a great example here, and a great trading platform.

Self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA

You can buy whichever investment funds or shares you want to, providing the platform has them available – all the decisions are yours, and never pay tax on the profit, ever.

What’s an expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISA?

The opposite of a self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, is an expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, where experts in investing will be deciding which investments to make for you.

Expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISA

You’d normally select an investment plan from a few options, such as an ethical investment plan, or the platform's standard plan. Add your money, then just sit back, relax and watch your money grow. A good example, and great investment platform is Nutmeg.

What’s an SIPP?

An SIPP is a Self-Invested Pension Plan. That’s a pension that you can build and manage yourself, which you can have in addition to a pension with an employer (workplace pension) and the government (state pension).

It’s an investment account you can have, just like a Stocks & Shares ISA, or a General Investment Account, where you are free to make any investments you like. You are in control.

And better yet, you get tax relief on your contributions, which means free money from the government on any money you add into the account, all added automatically by your investment platform.

If you’re a basic rate tax payer (that’s earning under £50,270 per year), you’ll get 25% added to your account of whatever amount you put in (which works out as 20% tax relief).

And if you’re a higher rate tax payer (earning over £50,270 per year), you can get 40% tax relief, and it’s 45% for additional rate tax payers (earning over £150,000 per year). You’ll have to claim the additional 20% or 25% tax relief yourself from HMRC via self-assessment tax return.

You can’t put in more than your salary though, and there’s a cap of £40,000 too – whichever is higher.

There’s one downside however, you can’t access the money within your pension until aged 55, or 57 from 6 April 2028. So make sure this is the right option for you before opening an account.

You can get a SIPP with one of our top rated platforms Freetrade.

What's General Investment Accounts (GIA)?

A General Investment Account (GIA), or commonly known as a brokerage account, sounds a bit more complicated than it is. You can think of it as just a regular account, without all the bells and whistles of an ISA or pension account.

They’re great because if you’re already using your ISA allowance on another platform or with an investment account elsewhere, you can still trade. And, you can have as many GIA accounts as you like!

The downside is that you’ll have to start paying Capital Gains Tax if your profits exceed the Capital Gains Tax allowance of £12,300 over a tax year – April 6th to April 5th the following year. The current rate is 20% tax. You can register and pay it all online these days, all super easy.

Don’t let tax put you off trading or investing, you only pay tax on profits. And you get to keep the remaining 80%. Think of the money!

But if you can, use your Stocks & Shares ISA allowance first! You can transfer your ISA to a new platform if you like too – the new platform will handle the transfer for you.

How much do I have to invest to start with?

All of these trading platforms allow you to invest with very little! If you pick Freetrade for instance, you can trade with just £2. Other platforms you might have to add around £25 to get started. Great for beginners!

With expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISAs, you might have to add a bit more, sometimes a few hundred pounds to get started, as they’ll be doing some work on your behalf getting your account set up.

If you’re not ready to deposit anything into a trading platform yet, you can try the demo account on eToro to get a feel for trading. It’s completely free!

There we have it

And that’s all there is to it for trading platforms. Thanks to awesome technology, you can trade from the comfort of your own home, or out in the wild, wherever you are, all on your phone. No more calls with old school brokers, unless you want to!

Better yet, you can trade instantly, and far cheaper on a trading platform, and ultimately make more money. It’s a win-win.

And on a serious note, your money is at risk when you trade, so please trade sensibly, and stick to a trading and investment strategy that works for you. Always do your own research on investments, and be smart – use proper risk management. Good luck!

Fact checked
This article has been fact checked

This article was written by the team at Nuts About Money, and fact-checked by 2 independent reviewers. You’re in safe hands.

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